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Federal court halts Delaware betting plan

Delaware officials hoping to make easy money off sports bettors will have to revise their gaming plan.

A Third Circuit Court of Appeals panel says Delaware's proposal to offer single-game bets on all major league and college games violates a 1992 federal ban on sports gambling. Because of that, the court issued an emergency injunction against the practice.

Delaware officials had hoped to have the single-game system operating by Sept. 1.

Now, however, they'll have to rely on parlay betting on professional sports. As I understand it, with this system you pick, for example, the Cowboys and Redskins and they both have to cover the spread.

Delaware tried parlay betting several years ago, but the method didn't produce the kind money lawmakers had hoped so the state passed its new betting law in May.

As soon as the ink from the governor's enacting signature dried, the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and the NCAA filed suit questioning whether Delaware's new sports betting law is legal under federal statutes.

The court is scheduled to hear specifics on the case in December. The sports groups didn't want to wait. Since football (and betting) kicks off next month, the leagues asked for the single-game system to be halted.

The justices agreed with the plaintiffs that the betting method in question shouldn't proceed before the court determines if it is indeed legal under federal law. The practical matter that seemed to sway the jurists was If the court eventually disallowed Delaware single-game bets, would the state have to return money to losing bettors?

Though obviously disappointed with the ruling that halts the effort to plug Delaware's $800 billion deficit, state officials tried to put a positive spin on the parlay-only ruling. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell proudly noted that "we continue to be the only state east of the Mississippi that can do that." blogger David Brunori, however, thinks that such pride is misplaced. You don't need an audio track to hear the sarcasm Brunori injects into his statement, "I think it is particularly cool that you can parlay bet on college sports. I think that big time D1 football and basketball needs the additional excitement of more gambling to heighten the experience of the student athlete."

In the spirit of full disclosure, I put down a few bucks on the lottery now and then (C'mon, the Mega Millions drawing tomorrow is for $325 million!). And I played the slots when the hubby and vacationed in Las Vegas earlier this year.

But using gambling, which for many folks is an addiction, not just an occasional frivolity, is bad public policy.

I know, anti-gambling protests are much more palatable to politicians than the howls of voters facing tax hikes.

And I realize that almost every state has a lottery that ostensibly funds educational programs. But every state also seems to have continual problems with the state of their schools. Could it be because students are learning the implicit, and wrong, lesson that luck matters more than effort?

Now I have to get back to work ... and see if I can find the latest odds on whether the Cowboys will have to reposition their Texas-sized scoreboard.

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